For more than a millennium Chinese porcelain was the most universally admired and
most widely imitated product in the world. It conveyed Chinese culture across vast distances,
penetrated societies in manifold ways, and reshaped ceramic traditions throughout
the Afro-Eurasian ecumene. As the principal material vehicle for the assimilation
and transmission of artistic themes and designs, porcelain provides the first and most
extensive material evidence for sustained cultural encounter on a worldwide scale, perhaps
even for intimations of truly global culture.
On the quincentennial of Vasco da Gama's successful voyage around Africa to India,
this article explores the economic and cultural importance for Africans of new contacts
with Europe. The exploration of mutual interests, characteristic of da Gama's voyage,
generally continued on the once isolated Atlantic side of the continent, where
African elites sought imported goods, even as their exports consisted more and more
of slaves; acquired facility in European languages; and experimented with Christianity
and Western education. On the Indian Ocean side there were few long-term changes,
despite early Portuguese attacks on the already prosperous, Muslim-ruled city-states of
the Swahili coast.
Forum: Three Plenary Lectures from the Sixty-Sixth Anglo-American Conference of Historians on the Theme "Connexions: European Peoples and the Non-European World" (London, 2-4 July 1997)
This article seeks how best to understand the history of humankind as a whole by
emphasizing communications and transportation networks. It summarizes the principal
consequences of major changes in the range and carrying capacity of these networks,
with reflections on the role of the West in recent centuries. During these centuries
Europeans enjoyed a brief experience of world dominance, thanks to an initial monopoly
of modern forms of mechanically powered transport and electrical communication,
only to see their dominant position decline as other peoples have caught up with them
in our own time.
Eastern Hemisphere -- Commerce -- History -- To 1500.
Eastern Hemisphere -- Civilization.
Scholars such as Marshall G. S. Hodgson and William H. McNeill have long emphasized
the importance of cross-cultural interactions throughout world history from
ancient times to the present. Yet a persistent and widespread misconception holds that
the peoples of the world began to interact intensively only after 1492. This misunderstanding
reflects both "modernocentrism," an enchantment with the modern world
that has hindered historians from recognizing the significance of cross-cultural interactions
in earlier times, and the powerful influence of national states, which has discouraged
historians from examining interactions between societies. Recent
scholarship on commercial, biological, and cultural exchanges suggests, however, that
during the millennium from 500 to 1500 C.E., cross-cultural interactions fostered the
integration of societies throughout the Eastern Hemisphere.
It is difficult to separate the idea of Europeans in Africa from that of colonialism in
Africa. This conflation was a feature of the older imperial history, and it also characterizes
more recent schools, such as colonial discourse historiography. Nevertheless,
there were Europeans in Africa before colonization; many Europeans related to Africans
in informal ways even under colonialism; and there have been many thousands of Europeans
in Africa since the end of colonial rule. This article is an attempt to find ways of
writing a history of whites in Africa that is not also a history of colonialism.